Ultimate Spider-Man #26 Review

Ultimate Spider-Man #26

“Call me Taskmaster”

The secret origin of the Bombshells, the arrival of a new villain and some confusion I can only solve with time travel. All this, plus, I need your help with something…

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Dave Marquez

Colors: Justin Ponsor

Lettering: VC’s Cory Petit

Cover: Dave Marquez & Rainer Beredo

Assistant Editor: Emily Shaw

Editor: Mark Paniccia

Plot: 15 years ago, Lana Baumgartner agreed to become part of a secret experiment in exchange for an early release from prison. While trying to create the next Captain America, Roxxon imbue Lana with explosive powers. After discovering she is pregnant, Lana uses her new powers to escape from the test site.

In the present, Miles Morales (Spider-Man) has returned to costumed crime fighting and has teamed up with Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) to investigate the confrontation between Cloak, Dagger and Bombshell from a few issues earlier. The Spider-Duo are able to track down Lori Baumgartner (Bombshell), but before they can talk they are incapacitated by the Ultimate Taskmaster.

Nitpick: Sorry but my inner-nerd wouldn’t let me write anymore without commenting on the timeline set up in this issue. We start with a flashback to 15 years earlier, when Lana receives her powers and discovers she is pregnant. In the modern day, Lori, her daughter, mentions not being in a super-fight since she was 15 when her mother returned to jail. For the flashbacks to be set 15 years ago, Lori could not be much more than 14 now.

It’s not normally the sort of thing I notice, but as it was within a few pages of each other it really took me out of the story. Either Lori doesn’t know her own age or the Bombshells spent a few years time travelling, which is why Lori has aged faster than time has moved. Now onto the review.

Faded MemoryThoughts: Following a slight stall in the previous issue this story is starting to build momentum again. When the Bombshells, a mother and daughter pair of villainesses, were introduced back in the Peter Parker era I thought they were nothing more than throwaway characters. However Bendis has skillfully started to weave them into his ongoing tapestry. In this issue we discover the Bombshells, like Clagger (Cloak and Dagger) are also victims of the Roxxon corporation’s desperate need to create more super villains than Osborn Industries. The flashbacks help to bring readers up to speed on Lana’s backstory, and although they don’t explore her character in detail, I do feel sorry for her as she was clearly manipulated by Roxxon’s scientists and didn’t truly understand what she was allowing them to do. There can be little doubt by now that Roxxon is up to no good, and has no altruistic motive for his company’s actions.

The art in these flashbacks is also really interesting and allows Marquez to show he can deliver a very different style from what we normally see from him. I checked the credits page a few times to make sure it wasn’t a fill in artist. Marquez’ style for the present-day is very crisp, as though it was an animation cell, while in the flashbacks he uses more lines and hatching. This change in approach made me read these scenes as though they were faded memories, as if some of the detail has been lost over time. While I prefer his usually style, I found this to be very effective to demonstrate that these events were not taking place in the present. I was already very impressed with Marquez’ work on this series, now even more so.

Speaking of the present, it’s great to have Miles back in costume. An active Spider-Man is like an adrenaline injection into the book. After three issues of Miles suffering from something similar to post-traumatic stress, Bendis’ is clearly happy to be able to write dialogue for an upbeat Spider-Man again. Almost every line Miles utters in this issue is a Sorkin-style one liner, and it makes these scenes enjoyable to read, and demonstrates what makes Spider-Man standout from other heroes. My favourite moment of banter would probably be as Spider-Woman introduces herself to Bombshell:

Spider-Woman: I’m Spider-Woman. He’s Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Unrelated. Can you believe that?

Ult. TaskmasterThe witty dialogue is even more poignant when juxtaposed with the dark content of the flashbacks, and the cliffhanger ending of the issue.

Bendis also spends some time exploring the Roxxon corporation, whose presence in the book is starting to be a drag. As I mentioned earlier Roxxon’s main motivation seems to be his ambition to out do Norman Osborn, and the rants to his scientists are starting to become very predictable. Bendis seems to recognise that Roxxon is not interesting enough to be the arc’s only villain however, as this issue also introduces Taskmaster into the Ultimate Universe. I made a similar claim in my first Crawlspace review, and was mistaken, so I checked this time. According to multiple sources this is the first appearance of Ultimate Taskmaster. He has been hired by Roxxon to recapture Doak (Dagger and Cloak) and the other Roxxon escapees before they can publicly reveal their origins. The jury is out on Taskmaster. I honestly can’t decide if his new look is a logical, modern, redesign for the character, or if he mugged Casey Jones and the Punisher on the way to work. I might need to see more of him before I can make a decision. Either way he seems like a credible treat as he is able to take down the Spider-Duo and Bombshell before any of them can react.

Grade – B: A great return to form after the average previous issue. A little less Roxxon moving forward and this book would be flawless.

You decide: It seems like Cloak and Dagger will be guest stars in this series moving forward, and I’m getting pretty tired of typing Cloak and Dagger every time. Does anyone have a preference whether I use Doak or Clagger…?

– Adam

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(1) Comment

  1. Tom Winston

    Loved this review, and your earlier ones. I'd given up on Miles a little while ago but reading this has pulled me back in. More please.

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